Uploaded: Tuesday, December 14th 2004

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BBC Children In Need 19/11/04

This annual appeal featuring countless performers was introduced by Terry Wogan and Gaby Roslin. Terry made a valiant attempt to pronounce “Pokarekare Ana” but failed miserably just the same! Never mind Tel, I think we know what it’s called by now!

The song was performed as a duet between Hayley and Russell Watson. During the first verse, which Hayley sang solo, I noticed a considerable amount of echo which made her gentle tones sound even more mellow. Russell took over the lead for the second verse, beginning almost sotto voce and gradually gaining strength until Hayley joined him mid-verse, singing in unison.

A twelve-piece choir, singing the same arrangement as the original version on Pure, was complimented by a powerful counter-melody from Russell before Hayley resumed the lead for the final verse.

When the enthusiastic applause from the audience had subsided, Hayley said during a brief interview that she was missing New Zealand and the hot weather. Aren’t we all?!

Des and Mel 24/11/04

For those of you who are not aware, this is a light-hearted daytime chat show programme with musical guests hosted by Des O’Connor and Melanie Sykes. Des and Mel chatted (the usual format is too informal to call it an interview) with Hayley who mentioned that she always enjoyed easy listening pop but became interested in classical music some years ago. She said that although she was still practicing the piano, she had given up playing the violin because things got “a little bit busy”! Huh, she can say that again! Hayley’s appearance at the so-called Bush Banquet was mentioned and, when asked if she gets nervous at such an occasion she said that she just takes a few deep breaths before performing. A few more during the thing might help too! She confirmed that she had recently sat her GCSE exams in English and Maths but that she would not know the results until February or March. All together now – “You’ll do fine!”

After a few words about the inevitable comparisons that have been made between Hayley and Charlotte Church it became apparent that there are still swans on the river in Christchurch! Thank goodness for that! Des and Mel then presented Hayley with a basket of “munchy things” which are typical confection in New Zealand. Hayley, who had seemed to enjoy the chat right from the start, suddenly looked excited at the prospect of a feast but was told she would have to sing for her supper….

After a short break, Hayley’s crystalline voice was ringing out over the combined backing from a string quartet and a guitar. “Mary Did You Know?”, which sounded gorgeous, is apparently one of Hayley’s favourites and it shows. Dressed in jeans and a pastel mint green top, she looked totally relaxed and made the performance look so easy.

Christmas Mania (11/12/04)

This was an ITV special in celebration of the songs and carols which are associated with Christmas. These were performed by an eclectic mixture of performers from Roy Wood, through Katie Melua and Il Divo, to Ronan Keating, Jamie Cullum and others, and presented by Donny Osmond.

In his introduction, Donny invited the audience to imagine a six year old girl performing in a school play when, as soon as the little girl’s voice is heard, the audience is mesmerised. He went on to say that this is no fairy tale for it really happened. As we know, the little girl was Hayley….

We then saw Hayley standing centre stage as she began to sing “Silent Night”. During the first verse, only the mellow harp accompanied her. In the second, the subtle sound of strings and woodwind enhanced the tranquil sound of voice and harp. During the final verse, a choir could be heard but neither they nor the musicians were ever seen. Hayley, with dry ice swirling about her ankles, looked lovely. The rallentando during the last line was particularly effective and the exquisite last note was held, perhaps, for a little longer than usual until it finally faded away. As Donny acknowledged as soon as he reappeared, “Wow”!

Songs Of Praise (12/12/04)

This weekly programme has been shown every Sunday evening for as long as I can remember. It is usually recorded in a church somewhere within the UK but occasionally it comes from a large concert venue. On this occasion it was from the Royal Albert Hall in London and, despite being recorded on 12th September, was a Christmas special.

The programme was introduced by two of its regular hosts, Pam Rhodes and Aled Jones. Aled introduced “The Littlest Star” (the title of the play in which Hayley appeared when she was six) and I wondered briefly if she is going to be stuck with this epithet for the rest of her life but he quickly qualified it by saying that she is now a “huge star”. I should think so too!

I interject here to explain that a week ago I bought Aled’s Christmas album on which Hayley makes a guest appearance for the most beautiful version I have ever heard of “Silent Night” and I had been secretly hoping that we would be treated to this lovely carol tonight. I have to admit that I was just a little disappointed when it became clear that she was about to sing “Mary Did You Know?”

My disappointment was soon dispelled as Hayley commenced this delightful song to the accompaniment of a piano, guitar, drums and strings. As Kirsty said in her review of the recent concert in Birmingham, “There was something in her (Hayley’s) face that plainly said (to me anyway!) ‘I am really enjoying this and I believe in this song truly’”. I was aware of Kirsty’s observation as I watched the performance tonight and I think she was right. There are signs that Hayley really associates with the lyric in a way that convinces the listener to believe in it too.

Later in the programme, Aled spoke to Hayley for a few minutes during which she said she would be spending Christmas in New Zealand and looked forward to a family gathering where they would have a feast and play lots of music. Sounds like a busman’s holiday to me! Hayley then mentioned that the next song may have been the first carol that she ever learned and that it was certainly a favourite of hers. Could it be?

Yes, it was “Silent Night”. Now, would it be the same arrangement as the one on Aled’s CD? Yes, it was. Oh heaven! For anyone who is yet to hear it, I urge you not to leave it another year before doing so. With Hayley’s exquisite harmony in the final verse, it is so devastatingly beautiful that, for me, no Christmas will ever be complete without it.

Aled was dressed in a tuxedo and black bow tie while Hayley looked stunning in a shimmering bright steely blue full-length gown. They were well lit against a darkened background, throughout which tiny flickering lights looked like stars.

I wrote a separate review of this song last week which appears elsewhere in the reviews section. All I will add is that to see them performing it added a new dimension to the wondrous sound. Many times in the past, Hayley’s sensational voice has sent shivers down my spine and caused goose bumps where I least expected them! This time the shivers were coming one after another in waves. I even got the shivers in my goose bumps! The penultimate line was especially beautiful with a brief tacit, allowing a split second of total silence, before the final line. It was all so lovely.

And so, although I am by no means prepared for Christmas, I am at least in the mood for it. Thanks to Hayley, I have had the most amazing and truly delightful year. May she have a wonderful Christmas back home with her family and may her success continue throughout the coming year.

And a very happy Christmas to you all.

Roger Mansbridge
12th December 2004


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